Appeals From Non-Final and Void Judgments Lead to Triple Dismissal — Appeals From Even Non-Final Judgments Divest Trial Court of Jurisdiction

One appellant saw three appeals dismissed in a single decision from the Court of Civil Appeals. Busby v. Lewis, Nos. 2060998, 2060999, 2070151 (Ala. Civ. App. May 9, 2008). Two appeals were from nonfinal judgments that had left claims pending against other parties; while a third was from a void judgment entered after the first appeals were lodged — and thus after the trial court had lost jurisdiction of the case.

This dispute grew out of a real-property sale. When he received less in the sale than he thought he had rightfully purchased, the buyer sued his agent, the husband and wife who sold him the property, their agent, and the title insurance company. The circuit court entered summary judgment for the husband and wife and, filing one notice of appeal for each summary judgment, the buyer appealed.

While these appeals were pending, the circuit court entered a summary judgment against the buyer in favor of the remaining parties. This last judgment resolved all remaining claims against all remaining parties. The buyer filed a third appeal from this judgment.

The Court of Civil Appeals dismissed all three appeals. The first two, it reasoned, were from nonfinal judgments. “It is a well established rule,” the appellate court wrote, “that, with limited exceptions, an appeal will lie only from a final judgment . . . .” “A final judgment is one that completely adjudicates all matters in controversy between all the parties.” The summary judgment in favor of the husband and wife had left pending claims against the agents and the title insurance company. It therefore was not “final” and would not support an appeal.

The third appeal, for its part, was from a void judgment. Once the buyer appealed the first two judgments, the circuit court lost jurisdiction over the case. “Although the [first] two notices of appeal . . . were premature,” in that they were from non-final judgments, “they nonetheless divested the trial court of jurisdiction.” The judgment “purporting to dispose” of the remaining claims after the buyer had filed his first two appeals was a “nullity” and would “not support an appeal.”

All three appeals were consequently dismissed.